I had another wonderful retreat at
Hogwarts Seton Hill University this past weekend, where I originally received my Masters degree in Writing Popular Fiction. The alumni of this program wanted an excuse to keep coming back every year, so In Your Write Mind was developed. It’s open to former students and the general public alike, and we have a fantastic time.
I had grand plans to work out before hitting the road on Thursday morning, but it was already gross and muggy outside. Don’t worry, I made up for it later. After a leisurely morning drive, I arrived on campus around noon and promptly tracked down people to hug. IYWM is a writer’s retreat, but for me, it’s also a family reunion with my tribe.
I spent the afternoon helping the IYWM committee members with some last-minute errands, enjoying dinner out with a small group of friends, enjoying dessert out with a different and larger group of friends, and closed out the evening in the dorms catching up with friends who are current students in the graduate program (and meeting new students).
I more than made up for my lack of working out on Thursday by walking “the hill” first thing Friday morning.
The bottom of the hill to the top is three-quarters of a mile. The top of the hill to the dorm I was staying in was about half a mile. I started at the dorm, walked to the bottom, and returned to the top. I swore I was never doing it again.
After a shower and a late breakfast, I attended a presentation on effective ways to arm female characters based on their backgrounds, environments, and the limits of female clothing. There was lots of lovely armor porn, and no boob-shaped breastplates to be seen.
In the afternoon, I acted as a timer for the “pitch sessions.” IYWM invites agent and editor guests of honor, who are willing to hear project pitches from the attending authors in a structured manner. My job was to make sure everything ran on schedule and help those pitching projects to stay relaxed, or at least less anxious. This meant that I got to see and catch up with lots of friends! Then, it was off to dinner again with good friends.
Things were organized a bit differently this year, for the better, so the annual costume ball was held on Friday night. Since the theme was “Storybook Land,” and I’ve had a busy few months, I was a total slacker and reprised my “Where’s Waldo?” costume for 2017. But this year, I won a costume prize!
There’s no way the organizer of the ball could have known that Grover was my favorite Sesame Street character. But my luck that weekend was only beginning…
After the ball, I stayed up way too late socializing in the dorms again. Which was unfortunate, because I was moderating a panel at the horrific hour of 8 AM. My fellow panelists (who, I might add, were up as late as I was) were concerned I might not make it, but I rolled out of bed just in time.
For the second year, I led a panel of current and former military officers and enlisted personnel to discuss the realities of military (and military dependent) life through the lens of how to best portray it in fiction. As usual, it was a great conversation that I hope will inspire the writers who attended.
Remember how I said I rolled out of bed? No shower, nothing? It was because I put on workout clothes, so I could walk the hill again after the panel finished. Because I am a crazy person. But I can say that I did it, and the first time wasn’t just a fluke!
I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with friends and running a few errands in town. Then, it was the big night! Ever year, IYWM organizes a mass booksigning for any published author and gives current graduate program students, other IYWM attendees, and the local public of Greensburg a chance to meet everyone and check out their work. I had copies of each of my Steel Empires books on hand (Steel Victory, Steel Magic, and Steel Blood), along with a special surprise! For that evening only, new copies of Steel Time were available. Since we haven’t even done the cover reveal for the book yet, I don’t have pictures for the event, but any determined internet sleuth might find pictures on social media. I love how the book came out, and I’m thrilled that some people get to read advanced copies. The official release is in September 2018, and I’ll definitely let you know here when we hold the cover reveal and have a link available for pre-orders.
Of course, I bought my share of books, too:
- The Stroke of Thirteen, Carrie Gessner
- In a Suspect Universe, Albert Wendland
- Sehmah’s Truth (Beneath the Willow #1), A.J. Culey
- Moribund (Circuit Fae #1), Genevieve Iseult Eldredge
- Ouroboros (Circuit Fae #2), Genevieve Iseult Eldredge
- Resort to Love (Paradise Key #3), Priscilla Oliveras
- Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf (Ballad of Mabel Goldenaxe #1), Sherry Peters
One of the special things that IYWM also does is sell tickets to raffle basket prizes. The baskets are donated, and all of the money raised goes to a scholarship fund to help the WPF graduate students pay for their final semester. The drawing was held after the book signing — my luck from the previous night held, and I won TWO baskets! The first was a collection of novels and anthologies by one of my favorite authors, Cara McKinnon. And the second was a Doctor Who-themed collection! (You don’t want to know how much money I spent on raffle tickets. It was going to a good cause.)
The best part is that the pillow is really a blanket (bigger on the inside), and it’s handmade by my friend Deanna! She also made the Adipose plushie and the stationery. My friend Anna crocheted the electronic screwdriver. I also came home with something else, the part of the basket not shown.
As you can see, my husband was thrilled.
Another late night, but this time I could sleep in! Sunday morning was spent with another round of socializing and attending the alumni luncheon so that we could welcome the current crop of graduates to our ranks. This year, before heading home, I also participated in the yearly business meeting, which is an opportunity to give feedback on the IYWM program and hear about upcoming plans. Lots of exciting things are in the works, and I hope to be part of some of them.
I had a safe drive home, and wrapped up the evening by watching the latest episode of The Expanse with my husband. I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.